Entering the 2019 season, Newcomb was expected to make the next step and become a mainstay for the Braves rotation behind Mike Foltynewicz. Long story short, that didn’t happen… sort of. He had an interesting season, but most would agree the Braves needed every ounce of the success he provided out of the bullpen.
bWAR: 1.1 fWAR: 0.4 ERA: 3.16 WHIP: 1.317 IP: 68.1 K/9: 8.6 G: 55 GS: 4 SV: 1
Newk was sent down to AAA in mid-April after walking 8 batters in just 12.1 innings to start the season. He made 3 starts for Gwinnett, allowing only 5 runs in 18.2 innings pitched, a 2.47 ERA. The biggest statement for Newk was that in the second and third starts he didn’t issue a single walk. A walk-less start was almost unheard of for him and a big reason why he was called back up to the majors. Upon returning to the big league club in May he became a horse for an unreliable bullpen.
Out of the pen he allowed 18 earned runs in 56 innings pitched, a 2.89 ERA. More importantly, he was able to show improved control with a 3.375 BB/9; 2017 and 2018 combined he sported a 4.70 BB/9. The only noticeable “change” was Newcomb’s pitch selection. We saw a decrease in his use of change-ups from 19.1% of his pitches in 2018 to just 6.9% in 2019. This brought an increase in fastball and slider usage, which we can probably use as the reason for his increased control. Additionally, according to FanGraphs Newcomb’s change-up has had a negative pitch value every year of his career.
Next Season Outlook
We can’t forget this was only Newcomb’s second full year in the majors and not everybody can be Mike Soroka out of the gate. He still has work to do, but the ceiling is sky high. The Braves are planning to let Newk work as a starter in Spring Training. Why not? If he can stretch that newfound control into 6+ innings, even better. If that fails, you can expect to see him back in the same role he was in 2019, a much needed trusty steed out of the bullpen.